Findings from a Community Care survey, published today, suggest that people who need social care to see family and friends and participate in community life are being increasing isolated due to budget cuts, with some councils restricting provision or failing to meet these needs.
Social workers pointed to care packages being stripped back to the most basic tasks such as washing, dressing and meal preparation, while others said people’s needs for social and community support were not seen as a priority and they were having to ‘fight for funding’.
Another common theme was that where people were moved into residential care, their support to attend social activities was cut because the expectation was that this should be accessed in the home.
Social workers also told us how the time allocated within a care package for this type of support was often expected to be stretched to cover other areas, such as attending hospital appointments, which then reduced the time a person could spend in their local community, for example.
It can be appropriate and safe to reduce a person’s care where, for example, their needs have decreased or can be met at reduced cost. But survey respondents also shared stark examples of where the loss of social and community support as a result of a care package cut had negatively impacted on people’s lives:
- “A service user who was blind but determined to maintain independence had their care package cut by our reablement team, who did not think about the wider social aspect of carers supporting the person to get dressed and do buttons up, so that they could continue to go out with friends for a meal twice a week. As a result, the person became depressed but funding was not agreed to keep the carers attending. I still think about this case.”
- “A person who has no family support and combined mental and physical health needs had their care package substantially reduced after they were reassessed to have improved mobility – even though they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and are an amputee.”
- “A person with a learning disability, autism and social agoraphobia had a personal assistant for minimal hours per week to support them to access their local community – something they hadn’t done for over six years. Their package was cut completely as it was seen as ‘social’ and a ‘hobby’ by a funding panel. They are now isolated again and won’t leave the house, which is impacting on their mental wellbeing”.
- “A person with cerebral palsy experienced a reduction in personal assistant hours after a diary of care was completed. They no longer had hours to go out of their flat in the evening, without a family member. This resulted in a period of depression, on and off, which resulted in symptoms of psychosis.”
- “A person now has to have a bed bath instead of being assisted to have a shower/bath. A young person with learning disabilities no longer has enough hours to ‘ride the trains’. A person who enjoyed trips out in their wheelchair no longer has enough hours to continue. The list is endless.”
- “A person requested additional hours for personal assistant support to do social things like going to the pub. Panel rejected the request as there was community transport available for the person to go to pub without the need for a personal assistant. The person didn’t go out due to loss of confidence – they needed someone they could build a trusting relationship with.”
- “A person with Down syndrome was moved from a care home where they were happy, had good relationships and went out into the community. They were moved to supported living with only three hours of care a day. Now they sit in their flat alone and hardly go out at all. We were told to move the person to cut costs and not worry. This made me feel very uncomfortable as a professional but had to go along with it.”
- “I work in a forensic inpatient unit and we have had admissions where people have committed offences because their community support has been reduced. This has increased their risks and free time and has led them to offend, being in hospital then restricts their liberties.”
- “A client who was financially supported to attend a day centre as their only means of making and maintaining social relationships has had this stopped. The logic is that they were funded for six months so had the chance to build relationships and can do this for themselves from now on.”
- “A young person with visual impairment was not able to access day opportunities because it was agreed at funding panel that they were not isolated as they lived with their mother.”
- “Due to budget cuts I was forced by upper management to leave a person I support in a placement of lesser cost despite it being in a different county, where family could only visit fortnightly. Prior to moving to this home they were living with and socialising with family daily.”
- “Day care reduced for someone who has little other social contact. They were encouraged to go to voluntary-run lunch clubs, but was unable to cope without support, which was not available.”
- “Charges are being introduced for things that were not previously charged for. A person was charged to attend a day centre but could not afford it – it was around £50 per week and their only income was benefits – and stopped attending, became isolated and ended up in hospital.”
- “A person with Parkinson’s disease had their package reduced from 30 hours per week to seven. All social activities and companionship ceased as a result.”
- “The assistant director rarely agrees day centre attendance. Rarely gives any direct payment hours to access the community. Also cuts existing hours/day care on review, even if it is working well. I am concerned about the lawfulness of such decisions.”